Age-old argument over Haiti quake
Pat Robertson blamed the earthquake in Haiti on a pact Haitians made with the devil to win their freedom from the French. Vodou (or voudou or voodoo or vodun) practitioners have their own take on the catastrophe. Earl Josue, vodou priest and musician, said, “Mother nature showed us how powerful she is, how sad she is. We have to rethink our society.” Another vodou apologist pointed out that the national palace was destroyed while the famous statue of an escaped slave rebel (Le Marron Inconnu) that stood in front of it survived. Robertson, Josue, and others all make the mistake Augustine tried to correct 1,600 years ago, that is, looking at events to determine how God regards people. When Alaric sacked Rome in 410, pagans blamed Christians, and especially the Christian emperors, for their official neglect of the old gods who had protected the city. Christian refugees who fled to North Africa appealed to Augustine for a counter argument, and he responded with his monumental City of God. Briefly put and City of God never puts anything briefly – Augustine explained how God had worked in history to bring the Savior into the world. Once Jesus died and rose again, the only remaining necessary historical event was his return in glory. Nothing in between matters for salvation history, and, for that reason, events do not demonstrate God’s will for us or his attitude toward us – only his Word can do that. So only God’s Word can judge the justice or lack thereof in the Haitian rebellion and in the country’s subsequent history. The real freedom that results from Augustine’s understanding of history is twofold. First, for those in Christ the rise and fall of empires and governments, as well as natural disasters, cannot touch salvation. Second, Christians are free to act in whatever way seems best for the good of others, for example, by hurrying to the aid of those suffering in Haiti without using the catastrophe as a soapbox.